KADIR OSMAN GYASI, STEFANIE ENGEL
Centre for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Department of Economics and Technological Change, Germany
In many countries, institutional weaknesses and performance inefficiencies of public irrigation agencies as well as poor maintenance and ineffective control over irrigation practices have resulted in the collapse of irrigation systems. Moreover, deteriorating government fiscal positions in the face of mounting operation and maintenance costs of the irrigation agencies have stimulated the adoption of programs to devolve responsibility of irrigation management to users groups in many countries. Although the actual outcomes of the devolution programs have been mixed, theoretical advantages and growing promotion of community-based irrigation management suggest that these institutions may be successful not only in efficient management but also equitable distribution of benefits from the schemes. Successful devolution programs in some regions of the world have motivated a lot of donor support for development of small-scale irrigation schemes under community management in Northern Ghana. At the same time, farmer participation in the management of existing larger schemes has been promoted. Evidently, some communities are managing their schemes better than others. What remains unclear is the degree to which these institutions promote efficiency, and the sources of inefficiency associated with community-based management of the common pool resources. The paper examines this issue by developing a theoretical framework for the empirical measurement of management efficiency and applying it to data collected in 50 communities managing small-scale dams in northern Ghana. We then use econometric analysis to analyse the determinants of inter"=community variations in efficiency. The results show that membership size, benefits from the scheme, exit opportunities, number of villages sharing in the use of the schemes as well as prior organisational experiences of communities impact on the efficiency of the schemes. Simple flexible rules established by members, extension education and training programs on group dynamics and cooperative management as well as improved legal backing for local institutions could improve upon the efficiency of the community"=based irrigation management institutions.
Keywords: Devolution, efficiency, institutions, Northern Ghana, small-scale irrigation management